The lake is well known for the attractive villas that have been built there since Roman times. There are many grand villas with magnificent gardens that line the shore of Lake Como. The gardens of Villa Melzi and Villa Serbelloni are open to visitors but the most famous is Villa Carlotta, between Cadenabbia and Tremezzo. It has extensive gardens which are filled with many tropical plants, rare conifers, orange tree pergolas, camellia hedges and the world famous azaleas and rhododendrons.
Villa Carlotta: This villa was built for the Milanese Marquis Giorgio Clerici in 1690 and occupies a site of over 753,474 sqare feet at Tremezzo, facing the Bellagio peninsula. An Italian garden, with steps, fountains, and sculptures, was laid out at the same time. The villa today includes a museum of agricultural implements as well as important works of sculpture by Sommariva’s friend Antonio Canova and by Luigi Acquisti.
Villa Melzi: This villa, located in Bellagio, was built in neo-classical style by architect Giocondo Albertolli in 1808-10 as the summer residence of Duke Francesco Melzi d’Eril. The park includes an orangery, a private chapel, fine statues, and a Japanese garden, and is planted, as often on lake Como, with huge rhododendrons.
Villa Serbelloni: Located in Bellagio, this villa hosts the Rockfeller Foundation Bellagio Center, a 50-acre (200,000 m2) international conference center set up and managed by the Rockefeller Foundation since 1959, which also operates a “scholar-in-residence” program for scholars from around the world. Its well-known park was created at the end of the 18th century by Alessandro Serbelloni.
Villa del Balbianello: This villa, famous for its elaborate terraced gardens, lies on a promontory of the western shore of the lake near Isola Comacina. Built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery, it was the final home of the explorer Guido Monzino and today houses a museum devoted to his work.
Here are additional villas that should be seen as part of your Villa Matilda vacation: